E3 2014: Microsoft Cuts The BS And Delivers Games
Leading up to E3, Microsoft promised exactly one thing out of this year's Xbox press conference, and that's exactly what they delivered: Games, games and more games.
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, began the show with a few brief words, telling those thousands in attendance and countless more watching around the world, that his team has been humbled and amazed by the support fans continue to show the Xbox line of consoles and games. And that's exactly what the 2014 Xbox presser was: humbled.
It's easy to draw comparisons to PlayStation's E3 press conference from two years ago and continuing into 2013. A giant in the previous two generations, Sony finally found itself at the bottom of the totem pole and in need of some serious rethinking when it came to how their games consoles were being handled. It was no longer a given that everyone wanted a PlayStation, and a bit of faith needed to be rebuilt with the community.
That's exactly what we got out of the Xbox show Monday morning. Their numbers haven't been as stellar as the competition, and consumers have made it known that the biggest thing missing from their new game console was the games themselves.
What followed, as Spencer was happy to point out following the show, was a full 90 minutes of game announcements. Sure, there weren't as many indies as some would like to see and quite a few of the titles were multiplatform, super early in production or simply updates on games we've known about for a year or more. But the message was clear: Games are coming to Xbox One.
What really surprised me about the show was that, as far as I can remember, not a single stat or figure was mentioned at this year's Xbox press event. There was no market chest-beating, no pie charts, no long list of new features coming “eventually” to the console. There was a clear plan of action here, and I think it paid off well.
Perhaps even more shocking was the fact that Spencer actually named Xbox's most direct competitors, PlayStation and Nintendo, by name. That's pretty uncommon, especially since they were referred to in the same breath as a comment on the community of E3 and gaming, expressing an idea that we're all here to have fun and be entertained, no matter what system you happen to have hooked up to your TV.
As for the games themselves, it's clear that the Xbox team has not forgotten where its bread has been buttered for the past generation. The Call of Duty series was practically synonymous with Xbox 360, even though their games were available on other platforms. So it came as no surprise when Advanced Warfare kicked off the show with a bit of gameplay that actually managed to rekindle my interest in the series, stepping away from the gritty realism of modern combat and into the, well, gritty kinda-realism of the future. The weapons and enemies are different from what we've seen in the series and a new booster jump means that players will enjoy a sense of verticality when determining how best to attack a situation.
From there, game after game was rolled out, including updates on exclusive titles for the Xbox family, such as Forza Horizon 2, Dance Central Spotlight, Fable Legends, and Project Spark.
Other multiplatform series also made an appearance, such as the new Assassin's Creed, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Tom Clancy's The Division and our first look at the unfortunately named Rise of the Tomb Raider.
A few announcements managed to steal the show in an ocean of about 20 titles, though, including the hectic-as-hell Sunset Overdrive, which looks like it'll be an absolute blast if the controls are intuitive enough to handle all of the chaos exploding all over the screen as the character grinds, flips, leaps, bounces and shoots their way through a mutant apocalypse.
Several ID@XBOX games also got some love, such as Below, Cup Head, Grave and the beautiful Ori and the Blind Forest.
This was an Xbox show, though, so of course the one and only Master Chief enjoyed a moment in the spotlight as Halo: The Master Chief Collection was shown off, followed by Halo: Guardians. I've yet to see gameplay on the latter, so I'm holding off any excitement until it feels like the game is closer to launch. That collection, though, drops this winter and offers all four original games in the series, as well as more than 100 multiplayer maps to plow through. It sounds like a real treat for anyone who has still missed out on one of Xbox's biggest adventures, or for fans of the series who just want to keep enjoying those games on the One.
Wrapping things up for Xbox were a couple of games that seem so early in development, they're hard to get any kind of a gauge on. Both featured CG trailers with few details beyond what we can glean from the on-screen action. Scalebound featured a dude in headphones riding around on a dragon as it waged war against another giant monster, while Crackdown looks to offer the same type of over-the-top action fans of the series have grown to love. Both, though, appear to be on the distant horizon, so let's just wait and see what comes down the pipeline.
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